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Monday, January 26, 2009

EFF solicits support on FreeYourPhone campaign

San Francisco-based non-governmental organization, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is soliciting public’s support in its new campaign to free cell phones from the software locks that stifle competition and cripple consumers.

A press statement endorsed by the Civil Liberties Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Ms. Jennifer Stisa Granick and Senior Intellectual Property Attorney at EFF, Mr. Fred von Lohmann, said that the campaign’s website is FreeYourPhone.org.

According to them, hundreds of thousands of cell phone owners have modified their phones to connect to a new service provider or run the software of their choosing, and many more would like to.

“But the threat of litigation under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has driven them underground,” EFF said.

They noted that the DMCA prohibits “circumventing” technical protection measures used to protect copyrighted works. But many cell phone manufacturers and service providers build these software locks to protect their business models instead of copyrighted material.

“Apple locks its iPhone to AT&T and prevents users from installing any software that has not been pre-approved by Apple,” said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann, insisting that consumers need a DMCA exemption to lift the cloud of legal risk that otherwise serves only to reduce competition and consumer choice.

Every three years, the U.S. Copyright Office convenes a rulemaking to consider granting exemptions to the DMCA’s ban on circumvention to mitigate the consumer harm. EFF has already filed exemption requests with the Copyright Office addressing the issues, but the rulemaking proceeding also accepts public comments about the proposals.

“Companies are using the DMCA to threaten customers out of exercising their consumer rights,” said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick, who stressed that the Copyright Office needs to hear real stories about how these software locks frustrate consumers and developers.

On FreeYourPhone.org, people can sign EFF’s petition to the Copyright Office and share their stories about cell phone frustrations. EFF will also help people officially submit those stories to the Copyright Office before the February 2 deadline.

The Copyright Office will hold public hearings on the DMCA exemption requests in Washington, DC, and California in the spring, and the final rule making order will be issued in October.


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